December News from St James and My forthcoming visit!

Dear Friends

I hope you will enjoy viewing my news about St James through our new website. I chose the name Brick by Brick for St James for the site as it has become our motto. Brick by brick is the way we have built and are still building this wonderful school in Uganda. Every donation however big or small is appreciated and used appropriately. I love to be able to promise a child who comes and gives me 10p of their pocket money that every penny of it will go out to St James and be used to help make the lives of their friends in Nakakabala just that bit happier. There is no middleman, no ‘expenses’ are removed as working (and playing!) at St James is my holiday each year, and I LOVE IT!

On the website you find the ‘Story of St James’ from its founding in 2008 and how I came to be involved in such a wonderful venture, taking you up to 2012 where I talk about the need for a safe water supply and permanent classrooms. Since I wrote that our story has got better and better and, over the next few months I will endeavour to add news, photo and video footage from the intervening years. Using a website is new to me and I’m a slow learner but I will enjoy recalling all the amazing progress that has been going on slowly but surely, as I work on it. So please explore what is already on and……watch this space! I have already started to insert photos to some of the newsletters and you can find a few newsletters (some with video links) if you click on the years on the right hand side in ‘Gerry’s Updates’, one of the most exciting being October 2014!

6 - James and his happy family. We had had a wonderful party weekend!

James with some of the children who live at St James.

On Boxing Day I fly to Uganda for five weeks and as usual I can’t wait to get back to my second home and to see the progress you have helped us make since my last visit a year ago and of course to see James and all the many other people who have become good friends over the years.

Just as we have had our unseasonal weather in the UK, Ugandas weather has been mixed up too! They’ve had very heavy rains in the dry season and periods of drought have lasted well into what should be the wet season, making cultivating their land to provide their families with food very difficult for the people. As you will have read in the last newsletter a river of water damaged one of the nursery classrooms so to prevent this happening again James had culverts installed to divert the flood water. Then recently high winds tore down a mango tree which unfortuatnley landed on the school latrine block. James tells me in his recent letter: ‘The children’s toilet collapsed after a very strong storm in the heavy rain. It was good that no one was inside so no causalities. So we shall need a toilet before the new school year starts in February. The corrugated iron sheets were not spoilt even the timber and the Iron bars are still ok. Some of the bricks are still good and can be used again even the doors are o.k. So we shall need labour to dig the pit and construction. We have some of the sand and also concrete stones still left too so we mainly need cement and labour charges.

30 - I cut the ribbon (toilet paper) to open the new latrines

Cutting the ribbon (toilet paper!) at the ceremony to open the new latrine block in 2011

32 - The children lining up at their new latrines

A big tree fell on the latrine block during a recent storm

‘Our new pigsty is good. One of the pigs might produce when you are here at St James!! It will be exciting as you might be interested in helping it push the piglets one by one ha! ha! I have planted two areas for the ginger crop but it takes a long time to come out so I am still waiting! Ginger is very profitable but it is harvested after two years so we must be patient! I have planted onions behind my house, some yam and Irish potatoes . I have also changed the banana plantation to the front of the pigsty. Plenty of cassava has grown, potatoes and sugar cane too so I hope we shall not starve in future.

‘Good news, the ceiling in Hambridge Hall (the block of four classrooms) is now complete and we hired the hall out for the first last week to politicians as the rains were too heavy. They paid us 50,000 (£10!) which will help to feed the children. The Hon. Minister of Parliament commended our work and the beauty at St James! We also had two schools use the hall for the Primary Leavers Exams which brought in 150,00 each and of course we did not have to pay for our own students this year now that St James is UNEB registered!’ James used to have to travel with his candidates to another UNEB (Uganda National Exam Board) registered school which cost each student a ‘sitting fee’ plus transport costs, so Hambridge Hall is already generating income! We are raising funds to put solar power in the hall too so that it can be hired out for functions in the evening too. We are not far off reaching are target for the solar and I hope by the time I fly out to Uganda on Boxing Day we will have sufficient for me to oversee the installation while I am in Uganda. If you haven’t already done so please consider contributing to the solar power for the hall, or to our on-going project to build Joy Clinic, progress of which you can read in my October newsletter .

53 James working in the garden outside Hambridge Hall the new classroom block

James working in the garden outside Hambridge Hall making it attractive for hiring out for weddings and other functions

‘I have been very busy especially with Primary Leavers Exams and end of year exams. I think the results will be good again this year. Thank you so much for raising funds for St. James. I realise it is hard to raise funds and it is even harder here in Uganda with too much inflation, corruption etc. All the same, we have managed to do a few things this year and that is really great. Remember we are brick by brick-BUT thanking God because we have tremendous development within a short time. Government schools have not even acquired some of the things we have! So long live Gerry, Long live Great Norman, Long live Nicola, Sara and Owen & Long live all our friends in the U.K.’

I also have a Facebook Page Brick by Brick for St James. Just click on the link

THANK YOU to

  • the schools who have continued to develop their friendship and support for their counterparts at St James.

  • my doggy friends who come to stay at my home in exchange for a donation

  • the Poynton Luncheon Club, Indo-Africa Charity, Parklife The Warehouse Project & Stockport Lamplighter Rotary Club

  • those who gave a donation in exchange for apples, tomatoes, and other produce from our garden this year

  • all who are using my St James Christmas cards to put smiles on faces

  • all who have chosen to give ‘alternative gifts’ to their friends and relatives be it for Christmas or birthdays or just because! Recently I have received donations for a Milking Cow called Melanie; a desks from a couple who have chosen to give each other a named desk for Christmas, 6 chickens for a 50th Birthday gift and a desk to be named after a little girl called Molly. All these gifts will make a big difference to the children at St James, they are not just for Christmas!

  • so many of you who have given money gifts large or small – every penny counts!

  • and all of you who continue to have an interest in St James and support the school as much as you are able. You are ALL truly wonderful!

BEFORE I GO

  • If you are struggling to think of a gift for that someone special for Christmas or for a birthday please think about purchasing an Alternative Gift. Please see our Fund Raising Page for details

  • Logan and Georgie

    Give a gift of a desk to St James and have your name painted on it!

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The Frienship Schools are never forgotten as James has named areas of St James after them. St Paul’s Place (after St Paul’s Catholic Primary in Poynton) is a beautiful shady area at the side of Hambridge Hall where the teachers sit to plan lessons and where I like to sit too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gerry the goat. Named as it was born the day I arrived in Uganda! You can sponsor a chicken, pig, goat or cow and give it a name!

Mr James with one of the young goats that will earn money for the school. You can sponsor a goat too or give one to a friend as a gift.

 

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Hambridge Hall, flash flood, another ‘little’ miracle and thieves at St J!

Timber arrives for the ceiling of Hambridge Hall

Mostly good news from St James. Thank you for helping me to raise enough money to purchase the materials to put a ceiling into Hambridge Hall, the block of four classrooms at the school that open up into one big room creating the hall. James tells me that three out of the four ceilings were now complete and that shortly the fourth one would be too. This means that the children will be able to have their lessons in more comfortable dust free surroundings and will not be deafened during the rain storms!

First ceiling panels being fitted in the classrooms

 

Putting the finishing touches to the outside of Hambridge Hall, the block of four classrooms that open up into a hall.

 

 

 
Our next challenge for the hall is to install solar power and then James will be able to hire it out at weekends and school holidays for weddings, graduations, clan and council meetings etc. which will earn much needed funds for the school. James loves flowers and has got the hall surroundings looking very attractive with lots of shade and colour which enhances the building for the children, and to make it more attractive for the various events. There are no similar facilities in the area.
The school had a major problem in May. The drought had gone on for much longer than it should have done and then suddenly the area received very heavy rainfall. With the ground being so hard and dry none of the rain was absorbed, it just created flash floods in the area. Unfortunately a river of water swept through the Nursery and Year 1 classrooms and caused quite a lot of damage. We repaired the damage but to prevent this happening again we needed to divert the water as it comes down the hill and install culverts to enable access from the lane that runs alongside St James. The cost of this was assessed at 1,150,000 Ugandan Shillings (£290). I was invited to run a stall at St Paul’s Catholic Primary School Summer Fair here in Poynton at the beginning of July. I was welcomed so warmly by everyone at the school, parents and teachers buying the Ugandan items and my greetings cards. At the end of the day I had raised just over £300 so with the cost of the money transfer to James, St Paul’s enable this crucial work at St James to be carried out. I have to call this another of our ‘little miracles’! As you can see by the photos the culvert was installed and now the school is saved from any flooding in the future. Thank you St Paul’s!

Pipes for creating the culverts

Culverts installed to save St James from further flooding!

 

 

 

 
I spoke to James recently. He sounded happy though once I started asking questions I realised that he has many worries which I wish I could help him with but unfortunately all I can do is raise money for material improvements, and be there in spirit. He is the one who has to cope with the every day situations on the ground. Subjects ranging from not having the money to pay the teachers because the crops of the parents have failed to produce enough to pay their child’s school fees, to criminal gangs going around stealing anything metal, including our new school sign to sell for scrap metal! Fortunately they only managed to dig it out of the ground and it was found beside the road, this time! James has taken it back to the school and now intends to make one out of concrete instead! It’s such a shame that all the effort we make is still vulnerable to criminal gangs. Of course this happens in the UK too but somehow it seems worse when James is making such an effort for the community! James is one pretty amazing man! DSC01394[1]

Children outside the shell of Joy Clinic wards

Joy’s Clinic has also seen some progress. Through Geminy Maw’s sponsored bike ride to Berlin and Back, the shell of the two small wards are complete. We are hopeful that we might get some assistance with the clinic from another source too, but have some enquiries to make first. I’ll keep you posted!

 
My favourite time to go to Uganda is February through to March at the beginning of their school year but I am booked to go fly out on Boxing Day instead. The main reason for this is because Alex, the eldest of the family of boys my family have been supporting through their education (with the help of several good friends!) is getting married at the beginning of January and that is one wedding I will be so proud to attend as since we first met Alex in 2007, destitute and trying to look after his younger brothers, he has grown into such a lovely caring, hard working young man. I am so happy for him. His youngest brother Paul takes his O Levels next month. When I met Paul in 2008 he was an undernourished, lethargic child, couldn’t speak any English but now, through our support, and his hard work and determination he has succeeded way beyond our expectations.
As it is I would have avoided going to Uganda in February/March next anyway as it is the Ugandan National Elections and not a good time to be out there. I was returning home via Kampala on my way to Entebbe Airport, the Saturday before the Thursday elections in 2011 and I was very scared. There was much rioting on the streets and being a Mzungu made me feel very vulnerable. I actually kept myself low in the car seat to avoid being spotted. So I am happy to be going in December, returning on 30th January.
As Christmas approaches I will asking for your support once again. I have my St James Christmas cards for sale as usual, but this year I also want to promote sponsored gifts to give your friends and relatives for Christmas. I will be giving you more details in my next email but please keep this in mind when you are thinking about what to buy your loved ones. There are opportunities to sponsor animals and we need more desks too!

Alternative Gift – A goat is not just for Christmas

Alternative Gift – Sponsor a desk and have your name painted on it. It will be wonderful if one day every child can sit comfortably during lessons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Once again the biggest thank you to all of you who have supported St James. From one week to the next I never know where I am going to get the money for the various challenges from but I am always surprised and humbled by your generosity. I’ve been told many times the reason for this is because you know that every penny you donate goes to St James, nothing is taken out. When I child gives me their 50p pocket money I can promise them that it will be spent wisely to help their friends at St James!
This year I have talked to the Poynton Luncheon Club about St James amd most I recently enjoyed an evening as Speaker at the Stockport Lamplighters Rotary Club. If you know of any group that would be interested in me telling them about my ‘adventures’ in Africa be it my climb up Kilimanjaro or the amazing place that is St James, please get in touch.
Also please keep in touch with your comments, opinions and ideas. I really appreciate your involvement and support.
Love and best wishes
from Gerry, James and all those children in Uganda you are helping

Eric and Fahima’s Introduction – A Traditional Ugandan Wedding

I am sat in Gerry’s Square in the shade of one of the mango trees. All I can hear is the odd goat bleating, chicken clucking, the soft voices of the neighbours and bees busy in and out of the flowers around me. Today is my day of rest and relaxation, recovering from a very long, hot, tiring day but also a very happy, exuberant occasion yesterday of Eric & Fahima’s Introduction. As usual the day included a couple of ‘challenges’ for me! It started early as Alex was due to pick us up at 8. I had prepared my bags the night before with all Mzungu like me needs for such an occasion. I had charged up the cameras, got sun cream, baby wipes, hand steriliser, first aid kit (including the one with sterile epidermic needles in case of emergency!), snack bars (as I can’t go for hours without sustenance!), lots of bottled water, my wedding invitation and gift, and many more ‘just in case’ essentials together, in my rucksack. I had also included my mosquito repellent and torch in case we got stranded overnight as has happened to me before! My added ‘essential’ was my camping stool which, when you remove a flap of material and add a biodegradable bag, becomes a toilet! Since my knees got bad I am unable to get down to use the long drop latrines or if I do manage to get down I get stuck which is both painful and embarrassing!

I bathed, drank two cups of Ugandan tea (without milk), and ate several tiny sweet bananas, some fresh pineapple and a snack bar. I was all set but by 8, but no sign of Alex! The plan had been for me to travel in my ordinary clothes to the Carol’s home James’ eldest daughter and get dressed there, but to save time James suggested I let the two village ladies who were coming with us help me put on my Gomez. I was introduced to Josephine and Alica who is Jackson’s mother. If you remember Jackson was the boy in the Christmas card photo way up a tree wearing James’ Kanzu and a Santa hat! The ladies giggled as they entered my room and for a minute I was actually a bit shy but then went for it and stripped down to my undies. That seemed to get them down to the business of dressing me which they did very professionally other than the fact that Alica kept gently cupping my breasts! She seemed to be discussing how the bra fitted nicely. Well I hope that’s all it was! They indicated that I should put my arms up. Then with string they tied the underskirt which is like a 3 metre plus piece of traditional material around my waste. It came right up to my arm pit and down to the floor. They indicated I should walk around so that they could adjust according to my stride. I hate being constricted so I did big strides around the room which made them giggle again! The piece above the string waist band was then turned down over my hips making them look even bigger than they were already! This is because traditionally the hips are deemed more attractive than the breasts so have to be emphasized!

Then the Gomez itself was put on folding another long section of the material like a concertina followed by the big wide belt that has to be tied in a certain manner to follow the Lasoga rules. I got my jewellery out and they were so excited to see it, trying it on before they gave it to me. It’s only costume jewellery that my daughter Sara lent to me! The Gomez itself was on loan too from my other daughter Nicola who had worn it at Moureen’s wedding way back in 2008 when the idea of St James was born. The Gomez I wore then has been worn many times in UK schools so is not looking very smart now. As I made my way carefully down the step at the door, again assisted by my two companions, James let out a very satisfied “Oh my dear sister, you look beautiful! We must have a photo.” Well I had to look good as I was going to the wedding of a Prince, Prince Waako. James is also a Prince!

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With the ladies who dressed me in my Gomez

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James and I with others from Nakakabala who were travelling to the wedding with us

When Alex did turn up 30 minutes late I gave him a bit of a telling off not because of being late but because he didn’t let us know! He had had another job the night before and was very late back from Kampala so overslept which is quite understandable but he should let us know and with a mobile phone there is no excuse these days. Many Ugandans are not good time keepers but if you want to succeed in business, especially with Mzungu or internationally you have to be. Actually Alex has improved a great deal and doesn’t often let me down but I think it is worth me commenting as his tour business with foreigners depends a lot on punctuality.

After photos we all piled into the van along with Grace, the young man who saved me from the bees, and another Grace but this time a lady and Jameson one of the village elders. Fatuma my maid and 10 year old Livingstone, the only child living here at the moment as all the others have gone to relatives or foster homes for Christmas waved us off along with many people from the community. Fatuma and Livingstone were to look after St James while we were away for the day, feeding the animals, tending the crops and most importantly guarding the school as unfortunately there are some who would take advantage of the empty compound and steal from St James.

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Fahima and Livingstone wanted a photo with smart ‘Madam Gerry’ too!

3 Grace with some of the Dowry! Eric had been keeping the chickens in George's Den

Grace with some of the Dowry! Eric had been keeping the chickens in George’s Den

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The idea was for all James’ relatives from this side of Uganda to meet at daughter Carol’s house and then go on together to meet up with other members of the family. Many people were already there and preparations were ongoing such as working out the dowry. The veranda was piled high with gifts including a packed case full of new clothes that Eric had chosen for his new wife, and another case empty which is a sign she was leaving her family. There was a solar panel, a DVD player, a flat screen TV, a glass-topped table, oil lamps, kitchen utensils and numerous other items. Ten chickens who had travelled in the Alex’s vehicle with us, their legs tied together to stop them hurting each other, were placed in a giant basket made of papayas grass. The chickens here do have a bit of a mixed life, they are free range but their last hours are often ‘uncomfortable’! A three piece lounge suit had also been loaded into a truck and numerous other items. James told me that there were also goats and a cow travelling with us!

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Gifts for the wedding attendants and some for the dowry

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A basket of ten chickens, part of the dowry, on their way to their new owners

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Waiting for other guests to arrive so we could travel together in convoy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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James’ daughter Carol with brother Tim and little daughter Rhianna

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Alex and I with George his van!

James with his three sons Tim, Jeremiah and Bridegroom Eric

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
I sat in the shade of a big tree watching proceedings. Gradually the compound filled with cars and people. Ladies dressed in beautiful Gomez of so many different colours and the men in their identical Kanzu with a jacket over the top. I was greeted by everyone and got special hugs from the members of the family I know so well. A gentleman carrying a folder who I later realised was the Spokesperson for the grooms family, came and sat with me informing me of the origin of the ‘Gomesi’, Gomez and Kanzu reckoning that the explorer Speke gave these outfits their name. I’ve found no connection when I Googled but the following was interesting:

‘There are many variations to the origins of the Gomesi. One such is that the Gomesi existed long before the missionaries and Indians came to Uganda, however, the missionaries introduced the use of cotton instead of the bark cloth, from which the Gomesi was originally made. When the Indians came to Uganda, they added the various fabrics from satin/silk blends and the vibrant colors to the traditional attire.
According to some scholars, the first Gomesi were made for schoolgirls in Gayaza, Uganda in the 1940s and 1950s. The Christian missionaries who ran the school hired Indian tailors to design the dress. Traditional Ugandan clothing was made from barkcloth. The Gomesi designed by Indian tailors was made from cotton fabric. The Baganda were the first nationality to wear the Gomesi. Today the Gomesi is the Kiganda traditional dress for women and is also worn by other ethnicities in Uganda
The Gomesi is a floor-length, brightly colored cloth dress with a square neckline and short, puffed sleeves. The dress is tied with a sash placed below the waist over the hips. The Gomesi has two buttons on the left side of the neckline. Most Gomesi are made of silk, cotton or linen fabric, with silk being the most expensive. A kikooyi or kanga is tied underneath the linen Gomesi to ensure that the fabric does not stick to the body. A well-made Gomesi can require up to six metres of cloth. I can verify this fact, the kanga that was bound around me was like a very long table cloth!
The Gomesi can be worn for any occasion, and in the rural areas it’s the form of daily dress. Residents of cities and urban areas tend to wear it on special occasions such as funerals and weddings. The Gomesi is worn at wedding ceremonies during the introduction, also known as the Kwanjula. During the Kwanjula, all female members of the groom’s family are required to appear dressed in Gomesi.’ Interesting!

There was only one person missing, one of Eric’s sisters and no one was able to contact her so there was a bit of a panic and many hushed phone calls trying to trace her. The Bridegroom was getting rather stressed to say the least! I suggested as this sister has her own car that we should go ahead as we were already very late, well past the start of when were supposed to be at the next meeting place. I was informed that we have to all go travel together as is traditional. In the end though we did set off without her hoping she would meet us along the route which thankfully she did. Many of the dowry items were loaded into our vehicle, poor James was squashed against the yellow case! I was privileged and got the front seat beside Alex so was relatively comfortable though I did have several bags and other items on the floor around my legs which made me feel even hotter!

We travelled along the main Uganda to Kenya highway, the main route to Mombasa, which was a well made road but narrow and extremely fast. Fortunately Alex has always been a careful driver. I think he is one of the few Ugandans that have actually passed a driving test to gain his licence! It is easy to ‘buy’ a licence and many don’t even bother with that! The road was undulating and with many bends but it didn’t stop vehicles hurtling passed us, often having to pull in suddenly to avoid collision. I notice that many drivers have their right indicator on to warn those behind that there is oncoming traffic but this didn’t seem to stop some, particularly the Taxi buses which are often overloaded too. You can easily see how so many accidents happen out here!

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I was glad I was in George and not one of the ‘suicide’ taxi buses!

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I could have done with a cold Nile at the local!

I tried to keep my mind occupied with all that we were passing such as the colourful stalls of fruit and vegetables. One was called ‘The Roof of Africa’ which reminded me that it was my family’s climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro (The Roof of Africa) in 2001 that eventually led me to Uganda! The stalls were piled high with pyramids of tomatoes, mango, and avocado, each pyramid would be sold for maybe 1000 Ugx, 25p and would weigh at least a kilo. Children some very young carrying jerry-cans on their heads were going to or from boreholes. I wondered how long they had to walk from their homes for a drink! Unattended cows and goats grazed at the roadside where the grass was greener. They would be collected at dusk or even make their own way home. A piki-piki was piled high with what must have been at least a dozen mattresses which stretched across the road into the oncoming traffic! Two men were working hard to push a bike heavily laden with loads of cabbages. When they pick the cabbages they leave a long stalk attached and this is how they are tied to the bike. We followed the railway line part of the way but never saw a train. Only lots of people walking along the track from one town to another.

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Iganga town

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Looks like hard work!

We were forced to slow down at the BBQ, the local ‘service station’. I quickly closed my window as young men and women pushed forward with chicken or beef kebabs, plates of fried bananas and bottles of chilled soda. Once their hands and what they are selling comes through the window it is very difficult to get rid of them! Alex had to slowly push his vehicle through the crowd to escape! A big sign encouraging people to recycle the plastic bottles was ignored as the place was littered with empty plastic soda bottles. Everyone just throws their litter down as soon as they have finished with it. Even my companions do this but I cannot bring myself to copy them though I know it will eventually join the other rubbish on the streets and in the countryside as there is no other option for disposing of waste available in Uganda. At St James it is sorted though and then burnt or buried.

The surrounding countryside was of massive sugar cane fields and others where the wetter land allowed rice to grow. Small thatched shelters on stilts are erected in the centre of fields allowing the workers to rest in the shade during the hottest part of the day, which was when we were travelling. I was getting slowly cooked as the sun was shining right on me and the heat from the engine was boiling my legs, and my water bottle!

It was an hour and a half journey to where the function was being held but before we got there we stopped at an unoccupied school where I was informed we could ‘relieve’ ourselves. This was the time I was dreading but when you got to go you got to go! Alex fetched my camp toilet disguised in a blue carrier bag and James walked me over the school latrines. He checked each one but all were disgusting with faeces all around, flies buzzing in and out of the ‘hole’ and many didn’t even have doors! He chose the least disgusting and helped me set up the toilet in one corner. When the door closed I could hardly see, I dreaded to think what I was standing in and worse with my Gomez on it was a hell of a job to keep it all from touching the ground! When I escaped into the fresh air and sunshine again my dress was all tucked up and very uncomfortable. James was just about to call my two ‘attendants’ from earlier in the day when I spotted James’ Mother-in-law and other ladies I recognised who were only too happy to help sort me out and catch up with news about Moureen and her lovely family back in the UK. I was glad of all the attention my Gomez got throughout the day as it kept slipping, twisting and dragging on the ground! I should have had a lesson on how to wear and walk in it!

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The Aunts, the Grand (James’ mum-in-law) and me!

I wasn’t the only one having trouble with my Gomez!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before we left the school the Spokesman for Eric’s family who had been hired for the day gathered all the men together with the ladies around the outside of the circle. Not sure what they were saying but reckon they were preparing Eric for the big step he was taking. There were serious parts with lecture and prayer and other ones of laughter. It’s times like this when I truly wish I could understand the local language but to learn Lasoga I think I would have to come for a five year stretch where nobody spoke a word to me in English and even then I’m not sure I would succeed!

From this point we travelled in convoy to just outside the village home of Fahima where there was a marquee erected, lots of plastic chairs and nearby giant pots of food ready to serve. The queue for the food was soon very long!

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A very long queue for the pre-wedding meal

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A massive meal!

Thankfully James and I along with other close members of his family were to be served separately in one of the buildings. Eric and Tim, one of his brothers, were already seated on mats in the cool dull room. I was asked to sit down beside Eric and James followed. I realised at that point I was sat between two Princes. Yes it’s true! Eric is Prince Waako and I’m assuming James is Prince Mutyaba. I will have to ask him! From behind a curtain two ladies were bringing in cooking pots, plates and bottles of soda and water, warm but wet! The little room filled to capacity with everyone but James and I, sitting with their legs tucked under and to the side. James is having some problems with one of his knees now so we both had to sit with legs stretched out not leaving much room for all the pots and plates!

The ladies served the food straight on to the plates, piling it high with matoki, rice and Irish potato. The only exception was Prince Waako who was presented with plates of the individual ingredient and also a Luwonbo, a whole chicken that had been bound in banana leaves and steamed. This was ceremonially presented to Prince Waako, the lady on her knees, unwrapping the Luwonbo parcel slowly. It smelt delicious. After much persuasion and hand gestures I got a plate with just a little bit of everything which included my own Luwonbo though only a chicken portion but very delicious! As is usual at these functions there were no utensils for eating but I had thought ahead and had brought a set of good plastic cutlery. The only trouble was, as I was worried about messing my Gomez with all the runny ‘soup’ (gravy), and didn’t want to put the plate on my lap I placed it on the floor beside me and found I was dropping the food on the way to my mouth! So I took the plunge and ate with my fingers and was much more successful! One of the very positive things about Uganda is that they are generally very hygienic and always bring water and sometimes soap around for you to wash your hands before and after a meal. Unlike in the UK where we walk into a restaurant, café or someone’s home for dinner and eat without thinking about washing hands! In Uganda I always carry wipes and hand steriliser wherever I go but in this instant I needed water and soap to get the greasy remnants of the food off my hands, mouth and chin! The food was delicious especially the chicken and when I had finished my portion Prince Waako gave me some of his!

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We sat on the floor. James and I had to stretch our legs out, as we have both got dodgy knees!

 

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I was sat between two princes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I asked for a small portion!

 

 

 

 

 

Prince Waako was served with individual plates of food and Luwonbo, a whole chicken steamed in banana leaves!

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Prince Waako’s Luwonbo was opened cermoneously by one of the ladies. It smelt and looked wonderful.

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Prince Wakko was served with tasty ‘soup’ last. Soup is gravy.

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I tried to keep my Gomez tucked in out of the way of all the food!

 

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We helped Prince Wakko by eating some of his chicken too!

We struggled to our feet, James has been suffering with a back problem for a while and me with my knees, must have looked a right pair!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We tidied ourselves up or should I say others tidied me up as the more I tried to adjust my Gomez the worse it got, twisting in the wrong direction and dragging on the dusty ground! We then walked to the venue in two lines men on one side and ladies on the other following the spokesman. I was amazed that none of the Gomez were made of the same material. There are so many different colours and patterns of material. Eric was hidden amongst the men looking no different from anyone else, all part of the tradition. Ladies in what looked like nurses uniform danced amongst the lines presenting each of us with a yellow bow to show we were on the side of the Groom.

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Ready to enter the wedding venue. Men all dressed with identical Kanzu and women in brightly coloured Gomez.

James ready to join the line, carrying my bag!

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The Spokesman hired for the day led the way with briefcase in hand!

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Irene, James’ youngest daughter in yellow, his eldest Carol in pink.

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A different hair style for every head!

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The Groom looked no different to all the other men. He is behind middle son Tim who is smiling!

We were all given a yellow ribbon by girls who were dressed like nurses! The ribbon was to identify us as on the grooms side.

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The ice-cream seller stopped selling and watched proceedings!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People from the local community had started to gather to watch proceedings. We all entered the ‘wedding’ circle through a colourful archway and were welcomed by the Bride’s family with clapping and the tribal wails. As I was not an official part of the family I headed towards the back of the seating but several grooms-men rushed to indicate that I should be seated at the front with the Father of the Groom, and the remainder of the immediate family including Grandmother who kept catching my eye and smiling. She doesn’t often smile! We all had big comfy furniture to sit on while the other guests sat on plastic chairs. At this stage Eric and Fahima were nowhere to be seen!

49 Jerrimiah, James' youngest son carried and presented to the brides father, a dowry gift. Only a token of what was to come later!50 Finding our seats opposite to the brides family.

Jerrimiah, James’ youngest son carried and presented to the brides father, a dowry gift. Only a token of what was to come later! We followed and were led to our seats opposite to the brides family.

The ceremony began with the Basoga Anthem during during which your right hand is placed over your heart with the thumb and forefinger forming a circle which represents the Kyabazinga Kingdom with the other three fingers stretched out representing the three water bodies in the district, the Nile, Kyoga and Mpologoma. This was followed by prayer then the fun started! The two families sat opposite each other each with its own spokesman, I suppose similar to us hiring a professional Master of Ceremony at weddings in the UK. There was lots of friendly banter and joking between the two groups creating a great deal of laughter. I only wish I could have understood it all! James’ family were asked many questions from Fahima’s such as why we were there. The answer was that we had an appointment as we wanted to marry from their home and that the Senga (Senior Aunt of Fahima) knows us. At this point a lady in very ragged clothing entered. She had supposedly come straight from ‘digging in the garden’, was carrying a hoe and a raw potato and confirmed that we were in fact the visitors she was expecting. This acceptance was followed by several groups of relatives from Fahima’s side coming to greet us with music and applause. Each group were in colourful matching outfits, and came on in order of age. They introduced themselves and one from each group was given a microphone to speak, even a tiny child spoke reluctantly! Children, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles each asking us if we had been to the Basoga Chieftain to get the Certificate of Introduction. The certificate was presented to Fahima’s family in a glass frame which was shown around the hundred or so family members on the girls’ side. After acceptance a hunt was started for Eric who had not been seen and was hiding in the crowd behind where we were sat. As the Aunt pretended to search here and there other men offered themselves up as a husband for Fahima creating much hilarity! Eventually Eric was found to much cheer and celebration – Muzira – geurialation jubilation (James wrote that bit!)

‘We’ requested that we meet the Bride. She appeared accompanied by her maids presenting themselves to the many guests and then climbing up onto a ‘stage’ that looked very much like a four-poster bed! Eric’s sisters Carol and Irene then joined Fahima on the stage dragging a trolley decorated with plastic flowers and fully laden with gifts for their future sister-in-law. They presented her with three of these simple gifts from the groom, each representing something special. A yellow flower because Fahima is sunshine to Eric and a hapo (Swahili for apple) to stop Fahima going with any other man from this day onwards. The third gift was a bottle of Fanta Orange, ‘F’ for Fahima and Fantastic!

At last the Bride and Groom came together briefly but then separated again until they exchanged engagement rings. Eric gave Fahima the yellow case that had travelled with us, which told her she must pack all her belongings, leave her fathers’ house and move to his home permanently. Many from the groom’s family then left their seats and went out of the compound to bring in the dowry. The cows had been left outside in a truck but everything else was carried in and presented to Fahima’s family. Loads and loads were bought in and laid on the ground around the ceremonial ‘stage’. Several sacks of grain, live goats, sacks of large joints of meat (probably half a cow or similar!), crates and crates and crates of soda, cans of oil, the big basket of chickens we saw being filled earlier in the day, several empty jerry-cans for water, many round baskets full of fruits and many many more items. It must have taken an hours to bring everything into the ‘arena’! A three piece suite had been brought in too and senior male members of her Fahima’s family, maybe father and grandfather, moved to sit on them. The happy couple then went and knelt in front of them and presented a gold wrapped gift.

Fahima cut the cake which was a laptop design with a photo of her and Eric on the screen, surrounded by separate cakes of giant sunflowers. She then helped light fireworks around the cake, one ‘Catherine-wheel’ looked dangerously out of control! The wedding rings were eventually exchanged followed by feeding each other with a piece of the cake and a drink.

All through the proceedings a Jester-like man was clowning about changing outfits often and teasing the groups while they were carrying out the serious business! James says this never used to happen and it has no meaning, is just for entertainment!

We were all given gifts of handkerchiefs printed with ‘Thanks from Prince Waako and Fahima’ and of course a piece of cake. Actually James and I ended up with one of the sunflowers and although we gave lots away, I think there was still a big chunk in his office when I left Uganda! They are a very dry cake and seem to last forever. I’m glad about that as I am a devil for cakes!

Our drive home was in the dark so even more frightening than the journey to the ceremony but thankfully Alex just kept calm and drove very professionally. It had been a long and interesting day but Alex told me when he gets married he is going to have a very simple wedding. I hope he does and starts a good trend in Uganda as they have become ‘shows’ rather than ceremonies!

I was certainly glad of a rest the following day!

St Paul’s Catholic Primary School Poynton comes to the rescue of St James!

Dear Friends of St James
It was my first visit to the St Paul’s Summer Fair last Saturday and I looked forward to it very much as it was also my first opportunity of meeting the parents and other friends of the school who support my work in Uganda. I also went with the hope in my heart that I would make some money to go towards solving a problem that had arisen recently at St James.

The day was so enjoyable and a fantastic success considering it is a very small school. The letter below is the one I sent to St Paul’s and explains how they ‘came to the rescue’!

The attached photo shows a banner made by the children in Uganda in 2005. The colours of their hands have faded but the message is still very relevant – Make Poverty History – Together we are endeavouring to do this in Nakakabala by providing an education for the children. I truly believe that education IS the route out of poverty and I have had the privilege to see this happening! So, a big THANK YOU to you all for your part in this and please keep up the good work of supporting St James! x

Also attached are photos of my Uganda stall and some of my customers! I still have lots available so if you are interested please get in touch with me then you can either come round to my house for a closer look or I can send you more detailed photos of the items. In fact I have had my first ‘online’ sale this week – thank you Emma!
X

JAMBO & ASANTE SANA to Mrs Armstong-Boyle and all the children, staff and parents at St Paul’s for making me so welcome at your Summer Fair. I enjoyed meeting you all as did my husband and friends Anne and Sophie. Your generosity raised just over £300 for St James Junior School and this contribution has come at an advantageous and crucial time for the school.

During recent flash floods the water swept through the Nursery and Year 1 classrooms and caused quite a lot of damage. So to prevent this happening again we need to divert the water as it comes down the hill and install culverts to enable access from the lane that runs alongside St James. The cost of this has been assessed at 1,150,000 Ugandan Shillings (£290) so with the cost of the money transfer to James, St Paul’s will enable this work to be carried out. I really cannot thank you all enough!
I look forward to coming in to see you all next term to bring you up-to-date with all that has been going on at St James and to tell you about my next visit to Uganda in December!

Love and hugs from

Gerry, Mr James and all the children you are helping in Uganda

June – Latest News from St James Junior School in Uganda

Dear Friends
The children at St James have returned for the second term of the school year and James tells me all is going well. He has just registered the older children for their National Leavers exams which they will sit in November, all hoping to qualify for secondary school. This year there are 30 candidates which is great news but brings with it a challenge of how to pay for their registration to the government. Only 13 of the candidates pay the 27,000 fee, the other 17 make small contributions in food etc. Finding the money is always a challenge for James and I often wonder how he manages it! One thing he won’t have to pay for is ‘sitting’ fee or transport as St James is now a Registered Exam Centre so hopefully several other schools will pay to use our facilities!

Children wait in line to get the school emblem put on their new uniforms

St James new uniform, sunshine yellow!

St James has a new uniform! James was getting comments from some of the parents that their children ‘disappeared’ in the chocolate brown uniform which I do agree with as often in my photos they were almost one colour! James and the PTA have chosen sunshine yellow to replace the dark brown. The girls wear a yellow dress with a khaki collar and the boys a yellow shirt with khaki collar and shorts. The dress and shirt have the school emblem printed on them. I must admit they look very good and very sunny! I have made this photo into birthday cards to sell for St James! St James School Emblem

New desks in the new classrooms! The children love the new desks in their new classrooms that many of you helped to provide! For just £20 you can sponsor a desk too and have your name or
the name of a friend or loved one painted on it just like the one in the photo!Michael

Ceiling, solar and paint for Hambridge Hall!

The school authorities have told James that we need to put the ceiling in the four classrooms plus paint it before the children sit their exams in November. This is a bit of a challenge as the
ceiling alone will cost over 6million UGX (approx. £1500) which doesn’t sound a lot but it is in
Uganda and is a lot for us to raise! We will plod on, brick by brick & hopefully succeed!

Very noisy without a ceiling!

Progress on Joy Clinic. Below is the latest photo of Joy Clinic. The walls of the treatment and delivery rooms are up and recently the roof went on. I learnt recently that Joys father was a doctor and when he saw her struggling to help the Nakakabala community, delivering babies in the tiny home where she and James lived with their six children, his greatest wish was for a clinic to be built. Lets hope he is looking down and seeing what is happening now! The photo is of Joy as a midwife. Everyone misses her so much!

The outer shell of the two small consulting rooms are complete.

Joy training to be a midwife (2)We are still a long way from completing Joy Clinic with lots of fund raising still to do but once again we are receiving help …………Geminy Maw, a 26 year old from Macclesfield, who found us funds for the borehole last year, has taken on a challenge to cycle solo to  ‘Berlin and Back on a Bike’ to raise awareness and money for Joy Clinic. Her motto is ‘Spreading Smiles Across the Miles’ and with her smile she certainly does that!